Throat cancer survivors sing to give thanks, encourage others

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by JIM DOUGLAS

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaajdouglas

wfaa.com

Posted on June 5, 2012 at 6:18 PM

Updated Tuesday, Jun 5 at 10:36 PM

FORT WORTH — Five cancer survivors stepped up to the microphones Tuesday at Baylor All Saints Medical Center in Fort Worth. About 300 people waited to hear the North Texas Laryngectomy Choir.

It takes courage for anyone to sing in front of a crowd. Imagine doing it without vocal cords.

Howard Defibaugh found his courage by first singing to his wife, Diana. He sang her the song she sang to him to soothe his recovery from throat surgery a couple of years ago:

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine.

You make me happy when skies are gray.

It came out low and raspy... almost mechanical.

Doctors removed Defibaugh's larynx to save his life. Same with John Robinson. They now have plastic implants. Both hold their hands over the valves in their necks as they talk... and sing.

"I don't know how I'm going to do with a big crowd today," Robinson said with a smile. Defibaugh gave him a reassuring pat on the back.

This is how the North Texas Laryngectomy Choir started: As a support group.

They joke they couldn't carry a tune in bucket (even when they had their real voices). But this concert is about what they carry in their hearts.

The five singers stepped to the mics, and sang, "What a Wonderful World."

The occasion was the first annual banquet for cancer survivors and caregivers at Baylor All Saints.

The crowd gave them a standing ovation.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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